Friday, June 12, 2009

Bad Mother

The premise of this book, as mothers we should really recognize that we're all just doing the best we can, is a great one. Ayelet Waldman makes many strong initial points as to why we, as mothers, are so quick to judge each other. The reasons range from our own insecurities (duh) to the fact that society, though much closer to equality than it once was, is still male dominated. These points are not only valid but are well supported.

Waldman, however, seems to quickly disintegrate into the defensive posture that she so eloquently railed against. She spends many chapters, seemingly, defending herself as a parent, be it the way she chooses to introduce sex education to her children or the way she schools them in politics (note: I don't necessarily disagree with the way she's chosen to parent - heck - I totally fly by the seat of my pants, however, I found the way she wrote about it to be defensive). Some may say this vein is simple honesty and while it is honest, it is clearly contrary to the premise that we mothers should be less self degradading.

The hardest chapter for me to swallow and, if I'm being totally honest, the point at which I felt Waldman was being the most self indulgent, was the chapter about Rocketship ~ her unborn child who she chooses to terminate based upon genetic testing done via amnio. Let me say, loud and clear, I am PRO-CHOICE.

Perhaps I, too, have fallen into the judgemental nature of motherhood and am looking to brand Waldman as a bad mother for terminating her pregnancy. Granted, my opinion on this is based upon the fact that my daughter, also, has a trisomy. It's also based upon my opinion on prenatal testing and unreliability of the test results. This is not to say that I think one should not have testing done, rather that I think it's a shame that the medical profession presents the results as cold, hard fact when, in reality, false positives are quite common. *I* could never terminate a pregnancy based upon prenatal testing as I would always wonder if the results were accurate and am not willing to risk terminating a fetus that could be totally healthy (and when I say "healthy", I include trisomies, heart defects, intestinal issues, etc.). Whereas Waldman seems to have the opposite view. It seems as though her stance is that if the test results are accurate then she is "unlucky" enough to have a child who is "less than perfect" and she's unwilling to risk that the positive could, in fact, be wrong. I find it interesting that Waldman refers to her termination and "genetic abortion", as if specifying that it's for genetic reasons makes it, some how, more acceptable given that she had genetic testing (and likely medical professionals) backing up her decision to end the life of her unborn child.

I found it ironic that the very lesson those of us blessed to have a child similar to the one she terminated was the very lesson Waldman learned when one of her children was diagnosed with a learning disability. It's a shame that she did not see the irony in the fact that what she was so afraid of (developmental delay, learning difficulties) was something that was already present within her family, even though it didn't show up prenatally.

All in all, this book was a good read. It was honest. It was thought provoking. It was interesting.


  1. Great review...I think I'll feel much of the same after I read it. It's on my list.

  2. I agree with much of what Megan has to say about this book. I reviewed it here if you're interested: